The Spectacle Blog

Durbin Accuses Citizens Opposed to Obamacare of Being Planted By Insurers

By on 8.3.09 | 5:16PM

With opponents of government-run health care speaking out at town hall meetings in growing numbers and with increased ferocity (watch this video of Arlen Specter hearing it from constituents), liberals are attempting to delegitimize citizens exercising their rights by portraying them as part of some ominous conspiracy run by evil corporations.

Lee Fang of the Center for American Progress’s ThinkProgess blog snarls:

ThinkProgress reported today on the growing number of angry right-wing activists viciously harassing Democratic, as well as moderate Republican, members of Congress on health care reform. Jonathan Cohn wrote that these tactics represent “classic astroturf organizing, in some cases bankrolled by the health care industry.” The insurance industry is sending staff members to over 30 states to “confront” lawmakers about health care reform. Simultaneously, Cohn writes, the health care industry will use the August recess to “flood the airwaves with ads picking apart reform legislation.” Indeed, AHIP, the lobbying juggernaut for the health insurance industry, has promised to change its tone and begin running negative ads on reform soon.

The site also runs a video in which Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin says:

“These health insurance companies and people like them are trying to load these town hall meetings for visual impact on television. They want to show thousands of people screaming ‘socialism’ and try to overcome the public sentiment, which now favors health care reform. That’s almost like flooding the switchboards on Capitol Hill. It doesn’t prove much other than the switchboards have limited capacity, so we want to have a balanced approach that allows members of Congress to hear both sides of the story, rather than be sucker-punched, or sidetracked by these tactics.”

This is absolutely absurd on several levels.  For one thing, I’ve been closely tracking liberal groups involved in the health care fight for some time, and all I’ve been hearing is how much money unions and other activist groups would be pouring into fighting for liberal health care legislation. Last July, the group Health Care for Americans Now announced the start of a $40 million campaign expressly for this purpose, and the groups were loaded with backers from big labor and groups such as MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, and ACORN. As I've reported elsewhere, the group received a $10 million grant from Atlantic Philanthropies, whose CEO, Gara LaMarche, was previously director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Institute, the philanthropic foundation founded and chaired by George Soros.

In June, I attended a news conference in which HCAN and other liberal groups announced they would spend $82 million in an effort to support President Obama's health care push and press for legislation that includes a new government-run plan modeled after Medicare. Howard Dean, former chair of the DNC, is involved in this supposedly grassroots effort.

But aside from this, Durbin’s statement that the American public is supportive of the Democratic health care agenda and thus any people protesting it at townhall meetings are merely tools of the insurance companies flies in the face of the actual polling data we have. For instance, a Pew poll released last week found that just 38 percent of Americans favor the health care proposals making their way through the Democratic Congress, compared to 44 percent who are opposed. And you can’t pin this one on “angry right-wing activists.” The poll also found that among independents, only 34 percent favored the proposals, compared with 49 percent who opposed them (the number opposed rose to 70 percent among independents who said they were following the health care debate closely).

The liberal effort to discredit American citizens who are expressing their views on an issue of vital importance is completely without merit, but it is instructive. It tells us that liberals know that despite their tremendous advantages in terms of resources and power in Washington, they are losing the health care messaging war. It’s becoming clear that Americans are not ready for a government takeover of the health care system, and they aren’t going to sit by idly while Democrats ram it down their throats.

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